Amazon Echo (4th generation) review: New look, same excellent results

"A charming new design paired with Alexa's intelligence makes the Echo (4th generation) an outstanding competitor."

  • Charming new spherical design

  • Blinding LED light ring

  • Serves as an Amazon Sidewalk Bridge

  • Great sounding tone

  • Bass trunks at maximum volume

It's hard to imagine that the original Amazon Echo smart speaker was released in 2014 and has become one of the most popular smart speakers around. For many people, it was their introduction to the future of the home – where voice control for hiring a digital assistant to complete tasks was of paramount importance. Now we have the newest member in the established line with the fourth generation Amazon Echo.

While I was relying on a variant of last year's third generation model, Amazon (like many others) surprised me with the introduction of a suitable successor. What is interesting, however, is the radical change in design, which deviates from the traditional cylindrical shape of the pre-speakers. With the new contest offerings already announced, namely Google Nest Audio and Apple HomePod mini, the Amazon Echo (4th generation) clearly has a battle ahead of it to become the standout winner this season.

Charming spherical design

When Amazon presented the Echo (4th generation) during its virtual press event in September 2020, I was skeptical of the new design. It was a radical change from what we've seen so far, so I wasn't particularly impressed. But as soon as I unpacked it, put it on my desk and turned it on, I was thrilled. Seriously beaten, mostly because I didn't expect it to look this good just sitting there.

When we think of speakers, a rectangular shape comes to mind. Therefore, it is a daring step by Amazon to change this (and break from tradition). The spherical shape is not over-inflated as I originally thought. On the contrary, it measures 5.7 inches at the base and 5.2 inches in height. With this two-tone look made from 100% post-consumer recycled fabric that covers most of the speaker, it's a comfortable and charming design that will accentuate any decor.

As usual, there are physical buttons on top of the speaker for volume control, action and microphone mute. Who knows if it's intentional, but the LED light ring around the base of the echo (4th generation) was a brilliant move. Not only does it glow in a pervasive color when I get Alexa, but it fades and pulses in different colors to emphasize Alexa's listening and reactions. The dynamic effect of the LED light ring is even more pronounced when it is placed on reflective surfaces.

A refreshing change that will last a long time.

Amazon put the design on the line and it pays off as a refreshing change that has long been in development. The only complaint I have is that I wish Amazon could just put in an LED display similar to the Echo Dot with a clock, just because it would be nice to be able to tell the time quickly at a glance – instead of asking Alexa .

Adaptive audio for every room

One of the main reasons people buy smart speakers is listening to music, whether leisurely or during a big party. The Amazon Echo (4th generation) does not disappoint in this area. In fact, the Echo line has been known to deliver solid audio by and large. Though, after the Echo Studio last year, Amazon clearly etched a distinctive line that is more of a mid-range offering in terms of audio performance. It's still incredibly capable of calming audiophiles, especially when it uses the same room-resizing technology as the Echo Studio by capturing the acoustics of the room to improve its performance.

Equipped with a 3-inch neodymium woofer and two 0.8-inch tweeters, the audio in the high range is clear and clear thanks to Dolby processing – with a rich bass that compliments it. You can adjust some settings through the Alexa app, e.g. B. Bass, mids, and highs, but I find that they can still sound tense at higher volumes. The lows seem to be affected the most, which puts a little strain on the bass.

The Echo (4th gen) seems just a tiny bit behind the overall performance of the Nest Audio on its own, but it's worth noting that you can pair it with other Echo devices (including smart displays) to play music for sync the entire house.

Same old Alexa smart

The Echo wouldn't be what it is today without Alexa, the intelligent assistant that powers the company's many smart home devices. I'll be honest, I don't use Alexa as much as I should, as my favorite smart assistant is the Google Assistant. That's because I rely so much on Google's services. That is the logical choice.

After getting to know Alexa again over the past few months with the Amazon Echo Show (2nd generation) and then the Echo (4th generation), I have a new appreciation for how useful it is as an assistant. First and foremost, it can be seamlessly integrated into Amazon's numerous services. For example, I recently made a purchase on Amazon for these Listerine Pocketmist Sprays. On the day of delivery, I noticed that the LED ring of light on the echo was glowing amber. I didn't know what it meant, however, so I asked Alexa. She told me my order had just delivered before I had a chance to check the notification on my phone.

This is just one of the many examples that show how deeply Alexa is intertwined with Amazon's services. When it comes to controlling the smart home, it can do the same job as the Google Assistant. This is of course one of the biggest advantages of Alexa over Google Assistant – as there are far more Alexa-compatible devices than Google Assistant or Siri. While I believe that, in my experience, the Google Assistant is better at responding to questions and requests based on contextual cues, I can't tell you how amused I am to hear Samuel L. Jackson's voice echoing. He's by far the most amusing celebrity voice.

To be honest, Alexa's ability doesn't change with the Echo (4th generation). If you own an older Echo, you won't find anything new here in terms of their capabilities. Downloading more skills will of course expand their functionality, but it's no different from other Alexa-enabled smart speakers and displays.

Help move the sidewalk to more places

It might seem an afterthought to most people, but the Echo (4th generation) is notable for Amazon Sidewalk. This is an addition to the fact that it is also a smart home hub that supports Bluetooth LE and ZigBee. If you have door and window sensors that use these standards, you can set up some of them right from the echo and send commands to them.

The Echo (4th generation) still has a big blow of its own and offers wonderful all-round performance.

More importantly, however, it can be used as a sidewalk bridge that helps compatible devices connect. This new low-energy signal has a greater impact on the communication between devices as Amazon Sidewalk becomes more common. Given that bandwidth is a constant problem at home as more and more devices are connected to the Wi-Fi network, Amazon Sidewalk aims to alleviate this congestion and connectivity battle.

What does it all mean? Quite simply, it effectively provides more coverage for compatible devices. The upcoming tile tracker is a perfect example of the reach of Amazon Sidewalk. You can usually find one in close proximity via Bluetooth LE, which is usually no more than several hundred meters away. If you happen to leave it with a friend who happens to have an Echo (4th generation), the tile tracker can still be found when you travel home. This is because the Echo acts as a sidewalk bridge and compatible devices can communicate with it.

This is all new and interesting, but this addition will make Internet of Things devices much easier to communicate with. Even so, the Echo (4th generation) remains a fantastic home hub to control and access all existing smart home devices.

Our opinion

Amazon's gamble to create a new version with its latest Echo smart speaker pays off primarily because the refreshing design is charming, offers an extraordinary audio experience and all the smarts that accompany Alexa. Google's Nest Audio may have the edge when it comes to audio performance, but the Echo (4th generation) still takes a big punch in itself and offers delightful all-round performance. It's priced at $ 100, so it's an important consideration as the next smart speaker. This is especially true if you are heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem.

How long it will take?

Amazon prides itself on the construction of the Echo, which is 50% recycled post-consumer plastics, 100% recycled post-consumer fabrics, and 100% recycled die-cast aluminum. It feels solid and isn't overly heavy either, especially when compared to Google Nest Audio.

There is little concern that something will break, mainly because it will remain stationary. However, a 1 year limited warranty is provided to cover any defects. However, Amazon also offers accident protection against costs.

Is there a better alternative?

Music lovers will prefer Nest Audio's performance for better audio quality. On the other hand, the Amazon Echo Studio is the speaker who decides if you are an audiophile but you pay a heavy cost to pick it up.

It also begs the question of whether smart speakers are a valuable choice when smart displays go into the equation. For the cost of $ 100, the Amazon Echo (4th generation) is hard to miss as it offers a well-rounded package. On the other hand, it lacks some of the added conveniences that smart displays offer. The Amazon Echo Show 8 is a compelling option at a price that more or less depends on whether it's for sale.

Should you buy it?

You bet! Whether you want to upgrade a pre-speaker or expand your existing collection, the Amazon Echo (4th generation) is great value for money – and it looks oh so good with its new spherical design!

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